General dentists must comply with the standard of care for dentists under like or similar circumstances in Georgia and nationwide. When a dentist fails to comply with this standard of care and a serious injury or death results, a lawsuit for dental malpractice can be filed. A national dental practice, which touts itself as general dentistry for kids has been sued by a mother of a child-patient who died as a result of complications from a dental procedure, and an infection which was alleged to have not been treated properly. According to reports, the infection spread after a follow-up visit to the dentist and sadly took the fear year-old girl’s life.
Infections secondary to dental procedures, while not uncommon, rarely cause death. This is because most patients report back to the dentist and receive the proper treatment to get the infection under control and to make sure that the patient does not become toxic and the infection does not spread. Ludwig’s Angina is one type of dental infection that can cause death if not properly diagnosed and treated by dentists.The majority of cases of Ludwig’s angina are odontogenic in etiology, primarily resulting from infections of the second and third molars (wisdom teeth). In this scenario, the dental infection spreads to the throat and compromises the patient’s ability to breath and can, if not treated cause severe suffering, lack of oxygen to the brain, and even death. With progressive swelling of the soft tissues and elevation and posterior displacement of the tongue, the most life-threatening complication of Ludwig’s angina is airway obstruction. Prior to the development of antibiotics, mortality for Ludwig’s angina exceeded 50%
Even if the original dental procedure that caused the infection was performed within the standard of care, the dentist and the dental practice may be liable for failing to timely diagnose and treat Ludwig’s Angina and/or failing to refer the patient to a specialist in a timely manner.